Redefining animal signaling: influence versus information in communication

  title={Redefining animal signaling: influence versus information in communication},
  author={Michael J. Owren and Drew Rendall and Michael J. Ryan},
  journal={Biology \& Philosophy},
Researchers typically define animal signaling as morphology or behavior specialized for transmitting encoded information from a signaler to a perceiver. Although intuitively appealing, this conception is inherently metaphorical and leaves concepts of both information and encoding undefined. To justify relying on the information construct, theorists often appeal to Shannon and Weaver’s quantitative definition. The two approaches are, however, fundamentally at odds. The predominant definition of… 
New problems for defining animal communication in informational terms
It is argued that an information-mediated influence definition overextends to include most, indeed maybe all, co-adapted interactions, and that it swings things too far in the opposite direction: the authors go from a definition of communication that istoo liberal to one that is too restrictive.
Animal Communication Theory: Learned signals and consistency of delivery: a case against receiver manipulation in animal communication
It was recently suggested that concepts such as ‘information’ and ‘encoding’ should be dropped from usage because they are not clearly defined when applied to animal communication (Rendall, Owren &
Attribution of Information in Animal Interaction
  • S. Mann
  • Computer Science
    Biological Theory
  • 2018
Grounds on which attributions of information and encoding in animal signals are warranted are established, as well as overturning some widely held misconceptions about information theory.
Vertebrate social communication: Ecological and evolutionary insights from social signals
This special issue focuses on vertebrate social signals, and within that circumscribed domain, almost exclusively on acoustic signals, it is critical to recognize that communication-related research as a whole involves a much wider range of taxa, deals with all possible sensory channels, and also provides information of applied value.
Inferential Communication: Bridging the Gap Between Intentional and Ostensive Communication in Non-human Primates
Communication, when defined as an act intended to affect the psychological state of another individual, demands the use of inference. Either the signaler, the recipient, or both must make leaps of
From Animal Signals to Art: Manipulative Animal Signaling and the Evolutionary Foundations of Aesthetic Behavior and Art Production
Overall, animal signaling theory offers a potentially integrating account of the arts because humans and their signaling behaviors are conceptually situated within a broader, transhuman field that also comprises nonhuman species and their behaviors, thus allowing for an identification of deeper commonalities.
Resolving current disagreements and ambiguities in the terminology of animal communication
This work defines both influence and information explicitly and delineate between signalling, deceptive communication, and situations where perceivers respond to cues rather than signals.
Information, influence, and the causal-explanatory role of content in understanding receiver responses
It is argued that without recognising the different ways information can be derived from signals, and the different causal-explanatory roles information can play in understanding alternate kinds of receiver flexibility (diachronic vs synchronic), proponents of information leave themselves open to the charge of anthropomorphising some signalling systems.
Animal Communication Theory: Information and influence in sender–receiver models, with applications to animal behaviour
All options are possible here: an information-based approach might be good in the human case and bad in the animal case, because the complexities of human language use have overwhelmed a simpler information-carrying role that still exists in animal signaling.
C Communication
In humans, communication is one of those terms that everyone knows but may be a little more difficult for some of us to define. In animal communication, biologists have been arguing over the


What do animal signals mean?
Animal Signals by John Maynard Smith and David Harper argues convincingly that although sufficient, the handicap principle is hardly necessary to explain reliable signals because not all signals are costly, and not all costs are handicaps.
Effects and Functions in the Evolution of Signaling Systems
This paper examines communication from a selectionist point of view by commenting upon logical difficulties arising from certain interpretations of information transmission phenomena, and evaluating the role of deceit in the evolution of social interactions.
The most striking aspects of many animals are signals. Thus one might expect Animal Signals by John Maynard Smith and David Harper to discuss the detailed biology of this half of the communication
Sound on the rebound: Bringing form and function back to the forefront in understanding nonhuman primate vocal signaling
This review examines some difficulties engendered by a linguistically inspired, meaning-based view of primate calls, specifically that vocalizations are arbitrarily structured vehicles for transmitting encoded referential information, and suggests two ways in which acoustic structure may be tied to simple, nonlinguistic functions in primate vocalizations.
Economic models of animal communication
This model supports one prediction of sensory drive models: that latent preferences may selectively favour some signal precursors over others and imposes a serious constraint on sensory drive by requiring that there be sufficient benefits to a receiver to compensate for the costs of disrupting the optimal receiver strategy used before exploitation.
John Maynard Smith’s notion of animal signals
This paper explores John Maynard Smith’s conceptual work on animal signals. Maynard Smith defined animal signals as traits that (1) change another organism’s behaviour while benefiting the sender,
The Evolution of Communication
The argument focuses on the design of natural communication systems language evolution and the concept of similarity, similarity and classification, units of analysis and their classification in communication potential fruits of Tinbergen's research design.
The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin's Puzzle
The authors convincingly demonstrate that when an animal acts altruistically, it handicaps itself-assumes a risk or endures a sacrifice-not primarily to benefit its kin or social group but to increase its own prestige within the group and thus signal its status as a partner or rival.
The Behavior of Communicating, after Twenty Years
This chapter clarifies the concept of information that underlies the approach and emphasize the conditional status of all predictions based on information; briefly review and revise descriptions of commonly found ‘messages’ and message categories; explore the great scope of communication and the centrality of negotiation in social interactions; and clarify the case for arguing that most signals facilitate prediction that is largely reliable.